Maintenance Day

I have been busy this weekend. Some changes, some consolidation, and more to come.

First, I have exported all the posts from the sister site, That was my original home (and my original domain, as the .com variant was being hogged for a long time). All those posts are here now, and searchable. Almost 800 posts in total added. All the images and formatting should be good. Some spot checking of posts look A-OK.

Originally begun in 2009, there were very few posts from that time. However, I really picked up the pace of posts in 2011, through the wee hours of the start of 2017, when I really created the tralfaz-dot-com site. Those 7 years, tralfaz-dot-org was my main property. It will remain up for some time (and there are plenty of people who have posted trackbacks to that site) but it will eventually disappear. Continue reading →

Free at last

In October 2013, I woke up one day to the news that my hosting provider, MediaTemple, had been bought by GoDaddy. That set off a furious search to find a new home for my web properties. I moved all my hosting away within a few days, but I only moved my domains away after they expired.

Except for two, I just kept getting lazy when the renewal time happened, and at $15 per year (versus $8.92 with my new registrar) it wasn’t a big deal to leave things as they were.

Until last Friday. I got the notification that both WordsByBarbara and ScriptsByBarbara were coming due for renewal. Continue reading →

My VPS Journey

When I began my web journey, oh so long ago (it was 2009), I was somewhat naive. At the time, I was looking for a solid performance, a provider that seemed competent and professional, and made it easy for someone who knows just enough to be dangerous.

Shared Hosting

At the time, shared hosting was the rage, and there were several options, even then. I settled on MediaTemple as a provider, and I was happy. They made no promises about “unlimited” things like disk space and bandwidth, and the few times I needed support, they were great. They weren’t cheap, ad $20 a month, but they worked. Continue reading →

AWS Experimentation – WordPress basic installation

This weekend, on a lark, I decided to do some experimentation with Amazon’s AWS services. I have been using their S3 for backing up my home Mac for a while, but since I use Arq it was really not a serious dive into the AWS infrastructure. However, when I started down that path, I had to do some interesting things, like create an IAM user profile, and the like.

Then I saw some tutorials that looked interesting, including one on how to setup a WordPress instance on an EC2 virtual machine. Since I have setup many WordPress sites, on a variety of hosting solutions, I thought why not give it a throw?

Fortunately, for the first year you are a customer, you have access to a “Free Tier” that pretty much allows you to run 1 VM solutions up to 750 hours each month. More than enough to play without paying.

The TL;DR answer: Is isn’t difficult, but there are some extra steps that AWS brings into it than using a major hosting site, even one where you start with a plain VM (like Digital Ocean). It gets you closer to the iron, and you can’t help but to gain an appreciation for the background processes that are in play. Continue reading →

Upgrade Shenanigans – 16.04 LTS

For a few months, every time I log into my droplets I get a banner advising me to upgrade to the new ubuntu 16.04LTS. I had hesitated as I worried that there would be repercussions.

My first attempt, on a very simple droplet with an nginx webserver with a simple Ghost blog installed. It was a flipping disaster. nodes.js failed, the install broke the nginx, and after 4 hours of messing with it, I punted and restored the snapshot I took.

Before the second attempt, I created a new droplet and built a fresh Ghost instantiation, and installed it from scratch. This time, I learned the proper install and setup. How to configure nginx properly, how to setup and install the Ghost package, and the big change in linux, the systemd.  Continue reading →

Sleazy Sniping Domain Registrars

I have a few sites, most of them I have paid the extra bucks for the “privacy” options. But there are two that I just forgot this extra.

Bad idea.

Yesterday, I got in the mail two letters for the two domains where I didn’t pay for the privacy option. They were identical. They look awful official. They try to scare me into opening my wallet and get my credit card out.

Of course, I know a little more than the average. I know that this isn’t from my registrar (I register at MediaTemple and mydomin), and if you read it you can see that they are asking you to authorize transferring it to them, and for a mere $45 a year (or $40 if you renew for more than one year).

What fucking burglars. I pay $12, or $15 a year depending on the registrar, and most of my domains have been prepaid for 5 or 7 years.

What assholes. I am sure that they hook a lot of people with this scam. I guess I will look up the BBB and file a complaint.

Formal Web Presence

As I am looking to create a more formal, shall we say “professional” web presence, I am learning a few things.

First, while my personal sites (like here) are self hosted, and currently managed by myself on Digital Ocean, I want something where I know that if I screw up I don’t lose it all.

There are plenty of options, but as I am familiar with WordPress, and even got my start on, their hosted solution, I decided to go straight to it as a solution.

wordpressI get a lot of benefits for this decision. They handle any security issues, they back up my content, and they keep it all up to date. I have a domain,, I paid for a year of google apps (to get the email), and it was a simple click, click, click process.

Of course, there are limitations. You can’t add plugins ad hoc. You can’t use themes that you buy elsewhere. You don’t get to add things like Google analytics. Inconvenient, but not fatal.

Of course, I am currently using a free theme, and have tried several of them. They don’t suck, but they are quite limited. I am good while I am building my presence, but I can see myself opening my wallet and buying a premium theme.

There is a benefit of buying one of the premium themes, they host the support, and from browsing the support forums, it looks like the support is quite efficient.

However, my web presence is rising, and I am working on polishing my words, and preparing my offerings.

A month with Digital Ocean Hosting

At the beginning of the year, there was a monstrous downtime at my host that was the final straw. I has a VPS there for a little over 2 years, and while at first it was rock solid and awesome, it had become less reliable through the summer of 2015. There were several down times, that were resolved with a reboot, or restarting the Apache server, or the mysql server.

Not too big of a deal.

Then the week between Christmas and New Years, the wheels came off at A Small Orange hosting. The VPS service there was by and large down.

When it came back up, I was out of there lickety split.

My destination: Digital Ocean

Instead of a well provisioned VPS, where the configuration is pretty robust, fully provisioned with a firewall, WHM and CPanel built in, you get a very basic server, called a “droplet”. You can select the OS, and even do a lot of one click installs. LAMP, LEMP, WordPress, and many more options are preconfigured out of the box.

I spun up two droplets, one a preconfigured WordPress installation (my main tralfaz blog), and then a blank droplet which I used the excellent serverpilot to create three simple wordpress blogs. Smooth process.

One other benefit of Digital Ocean is their YUUUUUUUUGE collection of simple, granular articles to help people who are not super technical to get a clean, secure installation.

Even if you are not a geek, you can get:

  • A clean ubuntu installation
  • Setup SSH with secure key authentication
  • Remove root SSH login (for safety)
  • Configure a UFW firewall with only the ports needed open
  • Install and harden a mysql installation
  • and much much more…

For as little as $5 per month per droplet, you are good to go.

Oh, did I mention that they have wicked fast data servers in many geographical regions?

So far, 100% uptime for 30 days.

More web hosting thoughts

I learnt early on that you get what you pay for, and web hosting is no different than any other good or service. There was a time when $3 – $6 a month got you a pretty good deal as the explosion in hosting services was happening, but as with all services that are shared, the only way the economics work out is to over subscribe.

The same happens with internet service (if everybody downloads at full speed at the same time, the “promised” throughput will fail miserably) and with hosting.

Usually, you either suck it up and deal with glacial response from massively shared mysql servers, or someone destroying the IOPS on the SAN, or you move to a provider that isn’t a dirtbag, and you pay more for that service.

Of course, if you have done that, and you get long downtimes and poor support, well, you moved once.

Last week and a half were trouble for my web properties. The hosting I used, a VPS on A Small Orange was part of a lengthy and poorly handled downtime. Staring around X-mas eve, and continuing through to the 3rd of January, their VPS services were hosed. Hosed bad. Like can’t ping, no network route, and the brief flashes where I could ping, the storage was offline, so that my websites were down.

Down hard. Continue reading →

Web Hosting Blues

Why is it so hard to find a decent web host?

Way back in 2009, I began blogging on, and by the end of 2009, I was hooked. I took the plunge, and signed up with MediaTemple hosting, a pretty slick operation that had a quite good product offering, with their “gridservers”. That worked well, and apart from some shared Mysql server bog downs, it was a pain free time. The few support issues I had (mostly around my ignorance) were handled cleanly and quickly.

In 2012, at the formation of Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption, I was drafted/volunteered to create and run their website. They had selected GoDaddy for their domain registration, and hosting. I had heard lots of bad things, but for the basic linux hosting we did, running a Joomla site, and handling a bunch of forwarded emails, it worked well. But what I hated about it was the constant hard sell. “Upgrade to xxxx“, “Buy more yyyy“, “DOn’t you need an SSL certificate?“. As a marketer, I was completely alienated by their hard sell at every interaction. Hell, when I called tech support, they even tried to sell something to me. They were worse than Comcast! Continue reading →